Children living in Mammoth Hot Springs may find themselves in a new school district by next fall.
The Park County District Boundary Board voted June 5th to integrate Mammoth Hot Springs into the Powell School District, in light of a budgeting crisis. If approved by the Wyoming Board of Education, the state would become responsible for the Mammoth Hot Springs students’ education.
In the past, students living in the Hot Springs area attended school in Gardiner, Montana, despite the fact that Mammoth Hot Springs is squarely in Park County, Wyoming. The Park and The Department of the Interior funded their education.
The discussion for changeover was prompted by the revelation in January that Yellowstone/The Interior was not authorized to pay for the Mammoth Hot Springs students’ education. In fact, payments were supposed to have ended in 1976, a fact suddenly sprung on park officials and Park County.
The January announcement meant, of course, that funding for Mammoth’s 37 students to attend school suddenly dried up, leaving Gardiner with a nearly $500,000 bill for the remainder of the school year. This deficit was later corrected by emergency funds from Wyoming, approved by governor Matt Mead.
As for the future of the Mammoth Hot Springs students, they would not be required to attend school in the district proper. It would be an unfeasible matter, since the town of Powell, WY is more than three hours outside the Park.
From the Powell Tribune:
The students would continue to be schooled in Gardiner, Mont. Park County School District No. 1 would serve as little more than a go-between, passing state money on to the Gardiner district. Powell’s schools, test scores and education funding would be unaffected; parents and students would likely be unable to tell anything has changed.
In addition, the decision to shift responsibility from the Interior to the Powell School District would come with a few conditions, if enacted. One is that the Interior will not contravene Wyoming education laws, even if Mammoth is technically under federal jurisdiction. The second condition would indemnify Powell School District from any possible back payments concerning the Mammoth Hot Springs students’ education.
Although the decision by the Boundary Board was unanimous, there was some hostility regarding the decision among its commissioners.
From the Cody Enterprise:
“In my opinion the fed walked away from its responsibility,” [Commissioner Joe] Tilden said. “I take great offense. It upsets me the federal government can wash their hands of it and say, ‘You guys take care of it and if you don’t you’re the bad guys.’”